The first time I saw her in person, I resisted the idea of having a picture taken with her.
For one, I still don’t know how to selfie.
Second, I have seen all kinds of politicians for seven decades and I thought, maybe she would just be one of them.
I have gone through seven decades of Philippine politics and each decade had its share of disappointments.
(I just notice that candidates endorsed by outgoing presidents didn’t do too well. They probably share my disappointment.)
But there is something about her which is real and honest and kind.
Which is not saying Filipino politicians are basically unreal, dishonest and they easily metamorphose into the most hated and most dreaded monsters of their time.
To be honest, I have yet to recover from the kind of president the people elected in 2016.
On the day of the last elections, I asked my late daughter: who did you vote for?
Without ceremony, she said Duterte.
Why? I asked.
He looked comfortable with the masses, she demurred.
Who did you vote for, my daughter asked.
My choice was Grace Poe, I replied.
As it turned out, the daughter of FPJ lost to the son of Davao.
Into the first year of his presidency, horror stories began to unfold. A French newspaper unmasked him as a “serial killer.”
Details of death squad were too gory for daily consumption.
And to top it all, he became the first foul-mouthed president ever to enter Malacanang.
And my late daughter who voted for him died from the bullet during his term.
As the next elections drew near, I felt some ray of hope for this country.
This candidate can connect to all classes: fishermen, farmers, typhoon victims, poets, artists.
She is real, her compassion doesn’t attract attention but she pays attention to every person she meets and those she had no time to see in person.
It is mind-boggling how she remembers the name of the tricycle driver she met some years back.
I can see that she is a good human being and a good mother. Just watching her three daughters behave is a study in How To Be A Good Mother in good times and bad.
As I have said, I don’t expect busy politicians to remember people – especially those they have not met in person.
I met her in this book launching without being introduced. I kept my polite distance even as her fans literally jumped over her for selfies.
Watching her from a distance, I am surprised she remains gracious in the sea of madding crowd.
When I saw her for the first time in person, she probably just wrapped up a dozen rallies. I saw faint signs of fatigue in her voice with her punishing schedule.
Surprised, I always see her gracious side and ready to connect.
One rain-drenched day with two LPAs looming in the Southern front, I heard she was in my home province for the nth time.
As usual, she attracted unusual crowds.
When I saw her with a university president in FB, I said I would try my luck and test her if she knew me without being formally introduced to each other.
University president Dr. Patrick Azanza casually told her one of the 67 poets in the bestselling book of poetry is from the island she is visiting for the nth time.
He got this answer: ““Of course I remember Pablo Tariman. Please extend my regards to him. And please thank him again for the poems he wrote for me.”
For the first time, I felt it in my heart she would be my final choice.
I have yet to hear of a presidential candidate who connects very well with poetry.
As someone wise had written: “A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.”
I know siding with the downtrodden is nothing new to her.
Early into her college days, she had read Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird which is about a lawyer defending a black client.
At one point, the accused faces a mob intent on lynching his client but lawyer refuses to abandon him.
Her defending the Sumilao farmers in Bukidnon easily comes to mind.
In this difficult true-to-life fight between good and evil, I know she is committed not to abandon her people.
Like the lawyer who fought for the accused to the end in “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
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Today (April 27) at 3 p.m. is the concert of classical guitarist Aaron Aguila with the launching of my book, Love, Life and Loss – Poems During the Pandemic. It is open to the public. Text 09065104270 to reserve seats. Just sign guestlist. The last ten copies of my book will be available along with the anthologies, 100 Pink Poems Para Kay Leni and the latest one, Lugaw ni Leni, Pink Parol, KKK, Kakampink, atbp. P500 per copy. I can autograph copies during the launching. Many thanks to supporters: Catanduanes State University, E-Crown Hotel and Resort, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Catanduanes Tribune and the Virac Tourism Office through Ms. Mariel Tabuzo-Torzar.